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Trade body merger could risk stifling diversity

  • 05/02/2016
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Proposals to create a new ‘super-body’ of key financial trade organisations could come at the expense of a number of views and opinions being expressed, a broker says.

London & Country’s associate director for communications, David Hollingworth, said that while the review could create ‘sensible efficiencies’, it was important that the voices of varying memberships could still have their opinions heard.

The Financial Services Trade Associations Review, headed up by ex-Ofcom boss Ed Richards, will seek to merge a number of trade bodies to form one new organisation. Among those included in the review are the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA), Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), British Bankers’ Association (BBA) and Building Societies Association.

Members of the BSA have since voted against the formation of a new association, while IMLA has been rumoured to also lack enthusiasm about the review’s outcome.

HSBC and Barclays have already confirmed that they will let their memberships of the CML lapse by the end of the year in light of the review.

Hollingworth said: “If various associations frequently find themselves singing from the same hymn sheet, there could be sensible efficiencies to be made through a merger. However, the risk of too much consolidation is that it comes at the expense of a variety of views and opinions being expressed.

“The hugely valuable role of trade associations is to make the voice of their membership heard and a wide debate with a broad range of thoughts is often an effective way to reach a sensible outcome.”

Brokers appear to be divided on the issue, according to a recent poll carried out by Mortgage Solutions. Six in 10 brokers said a new association would dilute the remit of individual bodies, while 40% did not believe the outcome would affect the mortgage industry.

Hollingworth added that brokers should continue to monitor the review, with the CML often seen to be lobbying for measures that will benefit brokers as well as its lender members.

“It would be a real shame if the mortgage industry that has a strong voice in the form of the CML runs the risk of becoming marginalised as part of a wider super trade body,” he said. “The CML has served the mortgage sector really well over many years and it is important that a strong presence is maintained for such a key sector.”

However, John Charcol’s product technical manager Simon Collins admitted that few brokers were probably taking an interest in the review.

“To be honest I don’t think brokers are really that bothered about it because they don’t see the direct impact on their business,” he said.

“I can’t see how it would hurt the industry to have a more powerful, bigger organisation. It would be nice to see one major organisation where everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet as opposed to all the smaller organisations which are perhaps working in a slightly different way, albeit towards the same end-point.”

Collins added that the review could be seen as an opportunity for broker trade bodies such as the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries (AMI) to work more closely with lender associations.

“I think this could be an opportunity for AMI to get an equal footing with the lender organisations. That way, when the FCA [Financial Conduct Authority] or Treasury want to consult on something, they then have one lender organisation and one mortgage broker body to go to.”

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